So a number of tenants and their acquaintances recently spent over $50 each for a lecture at the Learning Annex so they could quiz the man they blame for having to leave the building (and for the demolition of neighboring building 110 First St.)
Goldman conducted a lecture at the Park Central Hotel in Manhattan on Jan. 27 entitled "How to Be Successful in Real Estate." The Learning Annex is a continuing education program based in New York City that often charges money for celebrity and professional lectures.Goldman is considered one of the up-and-coming real estate investors in the country on the strength of his partnership with Larry Silverstein in purchasing the World Trade Center a few months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and for being part of an investment group that purchased the Sears Tower in Chicago for over $800 million in March of last year.
Goldman's involvement with 110 First St. and 111 First St. goes back to the early 1990s when he gained control of the buildings after the buildings' previous owner went to jail for theft of funds.
The former factory at 111 First St. contained big, boxy units where more than 70 artists plied their trade and displayed their wares each year at the city's Artist Studio Tours. But that came to an end when Goldman's representatives wanted to demolish parts of the building, saying it was unsafe. They also battled with tenants in court to increase the rent.
In the end, the tenants agreed to vacate March 1.
Goldman has proposed plans in the past for luxury housing on the site. Trumped
During the nearly two-hour lecture, Goldman discussed his acquisition of a number of properties, and the process involved. He answered questions about specific properties. Toward the end of the lecture, he made time for general questions.
That's when the fun started in earnest.
Some 111 First St. tenants and their supporters started peppering him with questions about his involvement in 110 and 111 First St. in Jersey City, about the battle of wills between himself and the tenants, and the future of the two buildings. An evening with Lloyd
In the past year and a half, Goldman had never been quoted directly in the press pertaining to the struggle at 111 First St. between management and tenants. Goldman also has opposed the city's attempt to create an arts district. The new Art District zoning includes both of Goldman's buildings and would limit his ability to build at the height he chooses.
Usually, a spokesperson from Goldman's management company or his lawyers have spoken for him in regard to such issues. But on Jan. 27, a crowd of approximately 50 people came out to see the man educate them on many aspects of real estate, from investment to profit-making.
Standing at over 6 feet tall, with blonde hair, Goldman spent the majority of the lecture speaking on various real estate acquisitions in the New York City area, from a strip mall in Queens to a commercial space on Fifth Avenue in the heart of Manhattan. He also talked about investing in the acquisition of the World Trade Center site and the Sears Tower.
Goldman also revealed a bit about his philosophy as a real estate investor, saying that he didn't consider himself a developer and that he usually comes across properties when he is stuck in traffic.
But towards the end of the lecture, a question was posed about his start in the real estate business. He answered by saying that he learned from his father Irving and his uncle Sol. The Goldman brothers were considered the top real estate owners and developers in New York City during the 1950s and 1960s, with Sol Goldman at the time of his death in 1987 second in New York City real estate holdings only to the city itself. Flood of questions
That soon opened the floodgates for questions about his First Street properties. Someone asked how he acquired them.
Goldman said this came about when he was a lender to the former owner. When the owner had to serve a jail sentence for theft of funds in the early 1990s, Goldman came into possession of the properties. He also pointed out that family involvement played a part, as the Goldmans once owned much of the area where the Harborside Financial Center is currently located, and have been involved in Jersey City real estate for 40 years.
"I knew the neighborhood, and I lent four and a half million dollars on 110 and 111 First streets in Jersey City knowing that it was worth about a million square feet of development," said Goldman. "At the time I thought lending four and a half million dollars a square foot was a good investment."
Then, Charles Kessler, Jersey City resident and longtime supporter of the arts in the city, asked Goldman why he demolished 110 First St. and has made plans to demolish 111 First St. if he is allowed to do so.
Goldman began his response by saying that Jersey City government has said for nearly 20 years that they wanted to condemn the property. He referred to this as an "abuse of power by government" and made light about the historic landmarking last year by the city's Historic Preservation Commission of the Downtown Jersey City area, where his First Street buildings are located.
"They also landmarked the vacant lot across the street," he said. "...there's garbage on there, and when I get a sanitation violation, the only response I could have is, 'This must be what's landmarked, since there is nothing else here, so can I throw away the garbage?' "
He continued his response by citing the unstable condition of 111 First St. building.
"The buildings, from a safety point of view...first of all they don't meet national codes in terms of light, air and height," he said. "[It's] an old, 130-year-old building, and there are sections that are over four stories, and they do not meet national codes."
Goldman went on to say that he couldn't put money into a building that has deteriorated over the past 10 years unless his plans for preserving the exterior of 111 First St., building the 20-story tower in the center, and creating artist work/live spaces were approved by the city's planning department, which he said he tried about three years ago.
"I had met with the building planner of Jersey City, and he took me aside and said, we are not allowing anything over there that's seven or eight stories," Goldman said. "I pointed out to him that next door and across the street, there's 20, 30 stories. Just this week they approved a 32-story building adjacent to the property." (That residential condo project for the corner of First Street and Washington Boulevard was approved by the City Council at their meeting on Jan. 26.)
After the lecture ended, Goldman faced more questions about the First Street buildings from Kessler and longtime 111 First Street tenant Kay Kenny, responding that he was a victim of "spot zoning" and that his First Street buildings could have been the perfect location for a "fiber-optic hotel".
Spot zoning is defined as the practice of applying zoning ordinances or bylaws to specific properties when neighboring lands may be under a different classification. A fiber-optic hotel is a hotel that has new style of cable being used for very high speed data transmission running through the building.
When asked that based on his situation with the city, would he sell the 110 and 111 First Street property, Goldman said that for ten years he has seen himself building on his properties and that he has no plans to sell.
"[The city] told us in open forum that there is always condemnation. I can prove the value of land on a per foot basis is worth twenty five, thirty million dollars there on the amount of footage I have," said Goldman. "They have always said we want to buy it from you for three million, four million or five million."
On the issue of the lawsuit that he has filed against the city contesting the Warehouse Historic District and the Powerhouse Arts District, Goldman said he tells his lawyers regularly to "go after them" but said that he preferred to settle.
After a few more minutes of answering questions, Goldman and the crowd that had stayed to hear his explanations on his buildings in Jersey City and other real estate-related issues made their way out the door. The evening was over. In a word, deluded
To say that praise was faint for Goldman is an understatement.
Paul Sullivan, a tenant who both worked and lived at 111 Street for seven and a half years with his wife Barbara Landes, also attended the lecture but did not ask questions. Sullivan, however, had plenty to say afterwards.
"I thought the lecture itself was interesting, a homage to himself...he doesn't seem to get it and he leaves out the brass knuckles that we saw at 110 and 111 First Street," said Sullivan. "What struck me again and again was his idea of development. His idea is to homogenize.....I think the guy's creativity is determined by the last dollar he can squeeze. And this sense of entitlement, if anyone stands in your way, then they are intruding on your property rights. To me, absolute property rights went out with the French Monarchy."
Charles Kessler said last week that he was shocked at how casual Goldman was about painting himself as a victim of government interference.
"I was just shocked with my jaw dropping that he really believed he thinks he's being victimized by the city," said Kessler. "He's able to rationalize his behavior towards the 111 First Street tenants and it's just shocking. What struck me is that he's smart, he works very hard yet he doesn't have a clue what damage he will do to the city."
Kessler also said that Goldman is fighting the existence of the same districts that could further the increase the value of his land and would make him even wealthier because of the potential for the retail and entertainment venue that would be possible under the amended Powerhouse Arts District Plan, recently approved by the city's Planning Board at their Jan. 25 meeting (see related story).
Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org